KANSAS CITY -- Jeremy Guthrie has had a bad habit of giving up a lot of runs this season. But when he exited Friday night's game against the Rangers in the top of the seventh inning, he had surrendered just two runs in his best outing since joining the Royals.
But a big home run was lurking, even if Guthrie had left the mound. Reliever Jose Mijares gave up a three-run shot to Mitch Moreland three batters after Guthrie departed, and the Royals dropped a 5-3 decision to the Rangers in the series opener at Kauffman Stadium, snapping their three-game winning streak.
Mijares entered with the Royals trailing, 2-1, a runner on first and none out. The lefty quickly coaxed a flyout from David Murphy, but then walked Geovany Soto. After getting ahead 0-2 on Moreland, the Texas first baseman sent a pitch 414 feet to right field, and a one-run deficit quickly became four.
"He had Moreland in the perfect spot. He threw him three straight fastballs with two strikes that he fouled off, fouled off, fouled off, and I'm thinking, 'OK, here comes the slider. He's going to strike him out,'" said Royals manager Ned Yost. "Moreland's a big strong guy and he put it in the fountain."
Mijares has allowed a run in three of his last four appearances, facing 12 batters and recording just three outs.
"We're at the stage of the season now when guys are starting to get a little worn down," Yost said. "Three out of his last four outings haven't been what we're used to seeing all year long. I just think he made a pitch tonight that he wishes he could have back, and that happens."
The long ball was the turning point in what had been a pitchers' duel for most of the night. Guthrie and Rangers starter Matt Harrison, who appeared in the All-Star Game at Kauffman Stadium last month, gave up very little to the opposing offenses. But Harrison ended up victorious, improving to 13-6 on the season.
Guthrie, who was acquired in a trade with Colorado on July 20, lasted six innings and gave up three runs. He walked just two and struck out four. The right-hander dropped to 3-12 on the season and hasn't won since defeating the Astros on May 31.
Despite the outcome, the consensus was that Guthrie pitched well.
"I thought Jeremy Guthrie pitched by far the best game he's pitched since he's been here," Yost said. "You can see him starting to get on track. The velocity on his fastball's now up to 95 miles per hour. Executing pitches, keeping it down. He was a little shaky in the first, but he really settled in nicely after that. When you match up against an All-Star, you've got to match him pitch for pitch, and Jeremy almost did that, kept us in the ballgame right to the seventh inning, one swing away from tying it up. That's a real positive for me."
The first inning was indeed shaky, and it looked like it could be another rough outing. After Guthrie issued a one-out walk to Adrian Beltre to load the bases, Nelson Cruz's deep fly ball to right field looked like it might break the game open early. Fortunately for Guthrie, Jeff Francoeur caught it on the warning track for a sacrifice fly.
"I felt good out there. First inning, I was up in the zone a lot and got in some trouble," Guthrie said. "But after that, I felt like I was able to make some better pitches and give us a chance to win."
"We caught a break, we weren't in Texas on Cruz's ball, because that ball is out of the ballpark in Texas, where it's a sac fly here. But he did a nice job of getting out of that first inning with the bases loaded only giving up one run," Yost said.
The Royals put Harrison in a jam in the bottom of the second. With two runners on and none out, Eric Hosmer slid into first base with an infield single to load the bases, but Yuniesky Betancourt followed by bouncing into a 6-4-3 double play. A run scored to tie the game at 1, but that's all the Royals mustered in an early threat.
Harrison then turned on his All-Star stuff. He held the Royals' bats to just two runs over 6 2/3 innings. It was a bounce-back outing for the lefty, who allowed a total of nine runs on 15 hits in his previous two starts.
"They've got guys who can swing the bat, a few gyus who are hitting around .300," Harrison said. "Fortunately I was able to make some pitches and get out of some jams early."
"He pounds the zone and mixes his stuff. He works really fast," Francoeur said. "I thought he pitched really well."
Kansas City tacked on one more against Harrison in the bottom of the seventh on a single by Alcides Escobar. Betancourt doubled in a run off reliever Mike Adams in the bottom of the eighth, to make it 5-3. Rangers reliever Alexi Ogando closed it out with a 1-2-3 ninth for his second save.
"We had a couple opportunities there, but then Ogando came in in the ninth, throwing 99, 100. He looked really good," Francoeur said. "They're bullpen is really good, and just to have an opportunity to get back in the game there I thought was good for our offense."
Vinnie Duber is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.